ALTAMONT — Three male Labette County High School students came to campus in Altamont Thursday for Area 51 Day dressed as people who entered or may enter the country without legal permission.
One of the three students had brown paint on his face, as seen in pictures of them posted on social media. One of the trio posted on social media they were dressed as “illegal aliens.”
This week was spirit week at LCHS for homecoming. Thursday’s theme was Area 51 and students could dress as aliens, and many did.
The school principal said he could not say what action was taken against the students, but he did say the school does not tolerate such displays from students.
Politicians in the U.S. have been excoriated in recent months for past behavior, including appearing in photos at college and other gatherings in blackface or brown face. Many label these instances racist given the country’s divisive history and the current politically charged climate in the U.S. revolving around immigration and border security.
LCHS Principal Shane Holtzman many students and faculty dressed as aliens on Thursday.
“We had three young men who made a poor, poor decision,” he said.
When asked if the three students were allowed to stay in school Thursday, or if one was asked to remove his face paint, Holtzman said he couldn’t answer.
“That’s the tough spot we’re in. We can’t tell what we’ve done and what we haven’t,” he said.
He said that the high school does not tolerate such actions from students.
“That’s not anything that we promote or tolerate. Any type of choice like that goes against our core values. I really, truly believe that Labette County High School is one of the most tolerant places to go to school. The actions of three young men don’t speak for an entire student body, school, history and tradition,” he said.
As to what punishment the three students faced, Holtzman again said he could not answer.
“We addressed the issue,” he said.
Many schools have blemishes and scars in their history and Holtzman said Labette County tries to shine a light on them and deal with them.
“Our goal is to make sure we learn from our mistakes whether it’s in the classroom or wherever the case may be. We want students to become better people.”
People on social media blasted the students and the school for what happened. Eventually, one of the students involved issued an apology. He wrote on a social media platform that he was speaking for all three and said they realized what they did was wrong. He wrote that “where we were coming from is we were just tryin’ to get a good laugh and lighten the day up a bit.” One of the trio “may (have) went a little far” with the paint, he wrote. He wrote that people should lighten up and take a joke. Then he said the three were sorry their actions upset people.
Holtzman said he fielded a lot of calls on Friday when social media was blowing up and painting the school a certain way based on the actions of the three and crucifying the three young men at the same time.
“I don’t think either extreme is anywhere we need to go,” Holtzman said.